Managing Diabetes Without Fear
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may have many questions and concerns. What does this disease mean for your long-term health? How do you manage the disease day to day and overtime? Will you have to cut out all sweets? Will you have to inject yourself with insulin every day?
Managing diabetes does require changes in your life, but they do not have to be overwhelming. By understanding the disease and how it affects you individually, then learning how to monitor it and take care of yourself, you can look forward to a full and healthy life.
When you eat, your body moves glucose (a sugar) from food into the bloodstream, providing energy for the body. Your pancreas creates the hormone insulin to help deliver the glucose. With diabetes, your body does not make — or does not make enough — insulin. As a result, glucose can’t move into the bloodstream, and your blood sugar levels can get too high.
Two major types of diabetes exist: type 1 and type 2. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot make insulin, so people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to stay alive. Although type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in youth and young adults, it can occur in anyone.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, usually occurring in people who are middle-aged or older, although it can occur in younger people too.
How to Manage Your Diabetes Well
Taking care of your diabetes is very important because if high levels of glucose remain in your bloodstream, they can cause serious health problems over time, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Eye problems
- Nerve damage
- Foot problems
- Dental disease
Once you understand what diabetes is, it is important to talk with your doctor about how it affects you specifically. Know what type of diabetes you have, and what type of care plan your doctor recommends. Find out if you have any other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, or are taking any medicines that might complicate managing diabetes.
Currently, there is no cure for diabetes, but its symptoms and effects can be mitigated by a consistent approach to good health. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends these four steps to manage the disease:
- Learn about diabetes through education and support groups. Take the disease seriously and understand that good care can help you feel healthy on a regular basis.
- Know your ABCs. Talk with your healthcare team about how to manage A1C (a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the last three months), know your blood pressure and work with your doctor to manage it, and keep your cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
- Learn to live with diabetes by managing stress; eating a healthy diet that is low in calories, saturated and trans fats, sugar and salt; and being active most days. Know what steps you need to do every day, such as monitoring your blood sugar and blood pressure, taking your medicines and stopping smoking.
- Establish good healthcare routines, which include seeing your doctor at least twice a year, making sure you’re up to date on immunizations and checking if Medicare covers any of your healthcare costs.
Diabetes can require significant changes in your life. You will have to be diligent with your health care and will need to work closely with your medical team to proactively address any issues. But by doing so, you decrease the risks of complications and increase your chances for long-term well-being.
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